Christmas is coming, a time when we begin to think about the presents we’d like to get and the ones we plan to give. Giving, if it is done in the right way, can be a major chance for spiritual growth. I recently received a message about this that I want to share with you.
First, I need to remind you about an earlier diary in which I wrote about becoming a kind of ambassador for the Green Man. In it, I talked about a friend of mine who lost his wife and was helped by the Green Man message. When we all went to dinner together two months ago, he gave me a green guitar pick, which I still carry in my wallet. We went to one of those old-fashioned restaurants, where they specialize in meat and martinis. A woman came around selling single, long-stemmed red roses, and he bought one for me to take home.
In that diary, I also wrote about another friend, who lost her daughter a year ago, and how much the Green Man message meant to her. I was recently sent a photo of a pub in England called The Green Man, from someone I do not know, which I have framed and put on my desk. I made a copy and bought an identical frame for my friend, and decided to send it to her so that it would reach her on the anniversary of her daughter’s death, when her son was coming to stay with her.
But I put a slightly wrong address on the box, so the package didn’t make it there on time. Even though I could easily have duplicated the gift by making her another copy of the photo and purchasing another frame for it, I was frustrated that my gift wasn’t going to get there when I wanted it to. Then I had a realization: I wanted it to arrive when her son was there, so he would see it too.
That made me realize that I was beginning to look for praise for my generosity. I thought about my habit of giving out dollars to beggars when I go to the local farmer’s market once a week. Would I do it with so much enthusiasm if there was no one there to see me? I thought of some money I recently gave to my goddaughter for acting lessons and remembered the times I have casually mentioned the gift to friends who noticed her photo on top of my bookcase and asked who it was.
Jesus, whose birthday we will soon be celebrating, warned us about this in Matthew 6:11 in what has come to be called the Sermon on the Mount, where he says, “When you give to charity, your left hand shouldn’t know what your right hand is doing, so that your charity is on the sly; and your Father, watching on the sly, will pay you back.” (This quote comes from The Unvarnished New Testament by Andy Gaus).
The weekend passed, and on Monday I thought I would try to track the package I had sent, hoping I could get it delivered to my friend. Then I got an email from her, in which she said, “Anne, I just returned from dinner to find a battered- looking box tucked in behind my pot plant. The telephone rang and my neighbor from across the street said, ‘This package was just delivered to us and it is for you.’ With great delight, I tore into the box and released the Green Man. Message received. Thank you.” By then her son had left, so she was the only one who saw what was inside the box.
Later that day, I spied something lying on the floor of our small balcony. I couldn’t figure out how it had gotten there. I went downstairs and saw that the balcony is too far from the ground for someone to have been able to toss something up there. There are no other nearby balconies that someone could have thrown it from. There is a blue jay that likes to occasionally bring us peanut shells left by the squirrel that our neighbor feeds, but this item was much too large and ungainly for a bird to have carried in its beak.
I decided that it was a sign from Whomever, delivered However, when I realized I needed to give more selflessly, without calling attention to myself. As my dear friend said, “Message received.”
Fresh and new, there it was: a single, long-stemmed red rose.
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